Man Gets 30 Days in Jail for Collecting Rainwater

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Gary Harrington, an upstanding resident of Eagle Point Oregon, was recently charged with what many would consider a silly, outdated law. Apparently, you can actually go to jail in Oregon if you collect rainwater or snow runoff on your own property and for your own use. And Gary is serving a 30-day sentence for just that.

Owner of 170 acres, Gary has been fighting this archaic law, which was put on the books in 1925, that states having reservoirs on your own property is illegal. Brought on by the Oregon Water Resources Department, Gary was accused of illegally diverting water from the Big Butte River into his reservoirs, despite the fact that he proved he was only collecting water from his own property, and not one specific source.

Sadly, the state seems to have its feet square on the side of the law. Apparently, in Oregon, water is a public commodity, even if it comes from your own personal property. And therefore, you need to have a permit to collect any water, even that on your own land. While it may seem illogical, the theory is that if everyone collects rainwater, then the lakes and rivers could potentially run dry. Not likely, but it is the premise of the law.

At first glance, this may seem like a silly law that was followed for silly reasons, and Gary should have simply applied for permits to continue collecting rainwater and melting snow. Yet he did. Three times in fact. And despite an initial approval, the state mysteriously reversed the Water Resource Department’s decision, subsequently charging Gary with breaking the law.

Rather interesting and certainly thought provoking, we’re sure we haven’t seen the last of Gary versus Oregon.